CNMI Senate Recommends FAS-Type Status for Long Term Workers

February 3, 2011


The CNMI Senate proposes FAS-type status for long term foreign workers. Hopefully, the U.S. Congress will realize that denying long term residents a permanent pathway to citizenship is un-democratic and un-American.  Disenfranchisement is not a principal on which our country was founded.  The U.S. has been a country that welcomes immigrants as future citizens. The CNMI long-term workers (those who have resided in the CNMI 5 or more years) have jumped through  more than enough hoops to earn green cards or outright U.S. citizenship. No more obstacles need to be placed in their paths.

The Senate recommendation reads:
“All nonresident workers residing in the [CNMI] for 10 years on the date U.S. Public Law 110-229 became law, shall receive the same immigration status held by citizens of the freely associated states (FAS). Each person shall be eligible to apply for, and receive, permanent resident status if s/he resides anywhere in the continental United States or the Commonwealth for not less than five years after receiving FAS status outside the quotas and limitations for such applicants.”
When the original legislation that was to become PL 110-229 was penned it contained the same suggestion that a FAS-type immigration status be given to long-term workers. Governor Fitial, CNMI and Guam indigenous rights groups, and CNMI lobbyists worked to successfully remove any provision that explained future status. I opposed FAS status then (as I outlined in testimony presented for the markup hearing, November 7, 2007 and numerous other reports) and I oppose such a status now.

The Saipan Tribune reported:
The Senate's draft report recommends granting FAS-like status to:

-Foreign workers who have been in the CNMI at least 10 years as of May 8, 2008. These workers will be allowed to live, work and study in the U.S. and its territories. Five years later, they can apply for permanent residency or “green card.”

-Foreign workers who have been in the CNMI at least five years as of May 8, 2008. These workers will be allowed to live, work and study in the U.S. and its territories but they will have to wait at least 10 years to apply for permanent residency or “green card.”

The 10-year and 5-year eligibility requirement starts from the date Public Law 110-229 became law: May 8, 2008.
Of course the U.S. Congress decides what status will be granted to the long-term CNMI workers, not the CNMI Senate. I am certain that in their deliberations, the U.S. Congress will consider the fact that tens of thousands of the foreign workers were cheated of their wages under the local labor system. These victims need to be made whole. It would not be out of the realm of possibilities that somewhere in the near future the United States government faces a huge remuneration suit from the thousands of former abused guest workers, and their host country governments demanding justice.

The U.S. Congress will consider the fact that the CNMI long-term workers were renewed for years and decades by the CNMI government and are full community members; that the CNMI long-term workers' have contributed their skills and talent for years and decades, and they are still needed.

The Senate report claims that the public was "overwhelmingly alarmed about offering so many nonresident workers an immigration status that would allow them to become U.S. citizens in the CNMI, and the effect it would have on the status and rights of citizens who are of Northern Marianas descent." That is one amazing statement, since less than 1 percent of the public attended the hearings and of those in attendance, some were nonresidents!  There were more residents and nonresidents who signed a petition requesting a direct pathway to citizenship (over 7,000), than there were people who attended the CNMI Senate hearings, which numbered in the hundreds.

It is odd that the people who were granted outright U.S. citizenship just decades ago would be "alarmed" that the nonresident community members that they have lived with for years and decades may be granted citizenship.  The long-term foreign workers are not strangers. They are neighbors, friends, and co-workers who have lived in the community for years and decades. What U.S. citizen, state or local government was consulted to determine if they wanted the residents of the CNMI to be granted U.S. citizenship?

The CNMI Senate plans on holding more hearings. The nonresidents and their children should pack the hearings so they can stand up to be counted.  After all, they are long standing and valued community members.


The Marianas Variety reports that the draft Senate report was "leaked" according to Senate Floor leader Pete Reyes. The Saipan Tribune stated that it was a draft and that there would be more hearings.

The final Senate report will probably recommend a poorer status than what was reported in the draft according to Reyes:
He said there are still differences in the interpretation of the draft report’s language and that is why they could not release it to the public yet.

“It’s very disturbing that the draft report leaked out. It was released prematurely and does not exactly represent what the Senate would finally recommend. It’s not final yet,” he added.

According to Reyes, they are inclined to recommend the granting of FAS-like status to qualified guest workers — but after five years.
Oddly enough, Reyes claims that he fears nonresidents would leave if they are granted permanent residency. He should be more concerned that more will leave if they have to wait five more years (on top of the years and decades that they have been in the CNMI) to get another status that places them in a disenfranchised position with no social or political rights. FAS status, whether for citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia or long term foreign workers, violates provisions in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Again, the U.S. Congress decides status, not the CNMI leaders. Since they want to represent public opinion the nonresidents should attend the hearings top make their views known. A credible report would cite the views of all community members.

From the report:
"Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States."


Anonymous said...

Most locals told me they want us to get green cards. The alarmed must be people in power afraid to get voted out by people they try to kept down.

Anonymous said...

So after all the vigils, marches and speeches, is this the end result? Is this what you wanted? Welcome to Federalization. When or if they get their FAS status or any status at all who will explain to these Philippine Citizens that they may have to leave?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 9:02 A.M, that’s the only reason! And no matter what these bad politicians do now, they can’t control it from happening. Years from now, children of CWs who have seen their parents’ struggle here would really remember their names and faces.

Anonymous said...

9:44 The CNMI government does not decide status. The U.S. Congress does. Federal officials were not pleased with the untruths from CNMI officials regarding not meeting with Babauata when the opposite was true. I doubt that the CNMI is held in high esteem in DC. Status was never a certainty, which is why there are marches, petitions and vigils. Philippine citizens are very literate, don't worry.

Anonymous said...

Noni 9:57 Even Senator Paul Manglona is implicated in the lie:

Anonymous said...

9:55 They can't undo what they did. Even if we don't get a green card this year, there are over 1,000 children turning 21 in less than 10 years.My son is 21 in two months. My daughter can vote since last year. Tina for governor!

Anonymous said...

It's disappointing btu at least they did not say no status. It makes me sad to think they want us to keep here for 5 or 10 years more with no green card. We are in purgatory caught between past and present. maybe no future, maybe future. For me it's for my kids. I will remember the people who fought for us as much as I remember the people who are haters. Thanks for helping us and never giving up. When people believe in us shouldn't we believe in us too? we need to be at the hearings for our kids and for all the years we put into this islands.

Anonymous said...

How about those who came here after May 8, 2008? What will happen to them?

Anonymous said...

Better status for US Citizens should be the focus of the Federal Government. Jobs for US Citizens should be top priority. A FOIA should be filed immediately to determine how many CWs are employed by people working at the Ombuds office or their spouses. This could spell big trouble as there may be a tremendous conflict of interest.

Anonymous said...

12:05 The US Congress will decide. Ignore the report

Itos said...

2:26 exactly,impunto The US congress will decide for our status the only acceptable are GREEN CARD or US CITIZENSHIP... 11:30AM we already serve that time 5 to 10 years...10:08 AM I LIKE THAT! Tina for Vice Governor Kilili for Governor

Anonymous said...

2:16 Please go to church. Never mind I will pray for you.

TAGLISH said...

Yeah right ,2:16 PM! Better status for US Citizen!….Jobs for US citizen should be top priority! It’s ALWAYS BEEN!!! Nothing has changed. The problem is YOU, US citizen, don’t want to take our jobs. TAKE IT or STOP your hypocrisy!! Being a US citizen has never been the only requirement in getting job. FYI, when we came here, we’ve never been proud to be Filipino workers, we just have shown our skills and shared our education unselfishly, we have worked every single penny we’ve been paid for. WE WORK EARNESTLY AND SERIOUSLY!!!

Anonymous said...

To all my friends just be patient,like me just received my LPR coz of my children and they knows who helps and gave hard time to all OCW's.My kids who have seen their parents’ struggle here would really remember their names and faces.Biba Kilili / Tina Tandem. You can count 3 votes from my family.

Anonymous said...

These elected idiots still don't get the picture. No matter what they say or what they want, at this time and date it is way too late, as anything that the Feds have pened is already decided, if it scheduled to be released in March.
These elected NMI clowns still waste time on nonessential, non binding legislation instead of working on the economy.

Anonymous said...

Our voices heard now. We can all go to hearings. Take your children and grandchildren. Be there and be counted! One strong community!

Anonymous said...

NO people OVERLY alarmed, not overly ALARMED. It must be NEEDLESSLY alarmed. Look at who gets arrested, it's non the CWs. Maybe locals are OVER reacting to having peaceful hardworkers here.

Anonymous said...

I support anyone here over 5 years getting a green card. Having said that, let's be realistic with regard to the statement above saying "if you want our jobs come and apply for them". It is likely that if the business community did not have access to open-ended amounts of low-cost labor, locals would have filled those positions, and because of the political dynamics that would have resulted from a majority of voters in the private sector, wages would be significantly higher right now. It is usually not about the job, but how much one believes doing that job is worth. When there is someone who can be brought in to do that job at less than a third of the cost it would take to entice a local hire, the business goes with the less costly option. This is why we are where we are with regard to wages. Do we need foreign workers? Sure we do. But there must be a higher level of scrutiny to ensure there is a need to bring the worker, and that worker if brought, must get paid a living wage commensurate to their field.

the teacher said...

Didn't they get the memo, this case is over. This new blabber from the local legislature is nothing but hogwash.

The CNMI government has no say at all on this matter and no one on earth pays attention to them, least of all the US Congress.

This is an 11th hour act of desperation from lame politicians posturing for the next election. When the losing side wants comprise in any battle or engagement, they beg or act from weakness not strength.

The case is over. Many CGWs have US citizen children and others have been here 10 years already. Even if the real Senate supported such a proposal, which is not new by the way, another five years to apply for PR is not the worst deal in the world and FAS status isn't that bad either.

"Ask not what what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country"(JFK) and God Bless America!

Anonymous said...

Why would any American think that FAS status which is being a 2nd class citizen is okay? It's not okay! The US Congress should not even consider such a recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter the Congress won't act on status anytime in 2011.

Anonymous said...

True. The reason nothing will happen is because Republicans fear the slippery slope as expressed by Anon 2/4 12:05. First it's people here 10 years, then 5, then those who came after the CNRA took effect. Pretty soon it will be anyone who ever got a frickin' bonobo doll.

Anonymous said...

A "bonobo" is an ape that is very closely related to the chimpanzee.

I'm not sure owning a doll resembling a small African ape will get you any additional consideration for citizenship in the US.

Anonymous said...

The poster meant “bayogo,“ pronounced “Bo Jo Go” and a common inexpensive tourist item sold on Saipan, originally from Rota (?).

In other words, one shouldn't expect green card status from coming to the CNMI as a “tourist” or “student” shortly before Saturday, 28 November 2009 and expecting to hang out on Saipan until rewarded with a magical “status change,” as at least some Umbrella Permit holders are currently doing.

And certainly not any tourist who visits Saipan forever more and decides to take up residence in the CNMI.

Anonymous said...

Now we are saying anyone who buys a Bojogo doll? Please remind me what the native CNMI residents did to become citizens?

Anonymous said...

It's "Bojobo", not "bonobo" or "bayogo" or "bajogo". As much as the Rotanese would like them to have originated on Rota, they didn't. They originated right here on Saipan in the late 50s.

Anonymous said...

We gave up 2/3 of Tinian, all of Farallon de Medinilla, and (unknowingly) the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters surrounding the CNMI, containing millions of square miles containing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of resources.

Our people also gave up significant rights of self-government to the U.S. Congress before whom we still don't have a vote, and the right to receive foreign aid like other Pacific islands do.

What the CNMI gave up is worth significantly more than what we have received, because our people highly value liberty and the ideals the U.S. stands for.

These concessions were given in exchange for promises largely unfulfilled by the U.S., such as to build a base on Tinian that would bolster the economy, or to assist the CNMI to reach a U.S. standard of living.

The Philippines had a chance to become part of the U.S., but spoke out decisively against remaining a Commonwealth, or even to have U.S. bases there. Now let the people of the CNMI determine our own destiny and do not try to impose your will upon us!

Anonymous said...

Bad administration? Certainly, waste of money? Surely. But 6:44am also hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

6:44 Are you kidding? You forgot the plebiscite where the Covenant and US status was overwhelmingly approved by the people of the CNMI. Please, by all means, re-determine your destiny. Hand in those blue passports and manage your own affairs and fund your own way. You do such a dandy job of it!

Anonymous said...

I did not forget the plebiscite.

The question was, "Please remind me what the native CNMI residents did to become citizens?" I answered.

My comment about the people of the CNMI determining our own destiny refers to efforts by citizens from the Republic of the Philippines, which has repeatedly rejected the close ties to the U.S. that we chose through the Covenant and continue to embrace.

These Philippine expatriates are now seeking to dictate OUR destiny through their attempts at changing U.S. immigration law to benefit primarily themselves at our expense.